Bikini Body Series: How I Gained My Confidence Back
By Thao Nguyen
One of my favorite photos of myself was taken when I was about 4 years old. I was spending the summer in Seattle at my grandparents house, and they were taking my cousin and I to the pool at the YMCA. I love spending time in the water, and you can see the excitement in my face. My arms are in the air, I’m in a power stance, there’s a giant smile on my face, and I’m wearing a sparkly bathing suit with ruffles and decorated with starfish. It was the height of fashion.
You can tell that there’s not even an ounce of self consciousness on my mind. I am totally confident in that photo, despite being in a bathing suit. I’m not sure at what point that confidence started to melt away, but I do know that for several years I never would’ve felt comfortable enough to take a photo in a bathing suit with my arms in the air and a giant smile. Hell, I probably wouldn’t be able to take the photo now. Somewhere along the line, I learned to keep my arms down, strategically placed on my hips or across my stomach. Somewhere along the line, I learned to cross my legs in just the right way to make them look slimmer and longer.
Confidence in the way I looked, especially in a bathing suit, has gone up and down over time. I’m a one-piece girl, but pretty much as soon as I hit puberty, I became ultra concerned about how my torso looked. Then I started worrying about how my thighs looked and how small my boobs were. Going to the beach or pool was still enjoyable, but I found myself staying in the water longer - not because I wanted to keep swimming - but because no one could really see what I looked like underwater.
I wasn’t really self conscious about how I looked at any other time. But having all of my arms and legs showing with only skin-tight material covering my chest and torso made me extremely uncomfortable with how I looked. It felt like every flaw was amplified. And my discomfort wasn’t unique to me. Almost every other person I knew felt just as self conscious in their bathing suit, and as a result, I always thought that it was a universal experience.
So imagine my surprise when I went to Brazil one summer and saw women and men of all shapes, sizes, and ages looking confident and comfortable AF in the tiniest bikinis and speedos imaginable. People were strutting their stuff, casually walking lounging and sun tanning, no cover-ups or sucked in stomachs in sight. Sure, I never spoke to anyone about this issue, so this was all based on observation - but there was none of the fidgeting and strategic posturing I’d seen at the beaches and pools in the US. It was amazing. I was awed at the amount of confidence the people of Brazil had. It made me more relaxed myself, seeing how unbothered everyone was by how they looked.
It may be cliche and cheesy, but that really made me see that how people see you is really dependent on how you carry yourself. With enough self-assurance, you will garner the respect you deserve. It’s not at all about what your body looks like, it’s about loving how you look. So instead of comparing myself to other people at the beach or on Instagram, I learned to look at myself and be happy with myself. This has made all the difference in how I approach the idea of the bikini body.Sure, I might not be able to pose like I did in my childhood photo, but I don’t need to cover myself up with a sarong or hide in the water anymore either. I realize that I don’t need slim legs, a flat stomach, and boobs to look good in a bathing suit. All I need is to look like myself and not worry about what others are thinking. Because at the end of the day, what other people think about me doesn’t change who I am or what I look like.